Final Fantasy Tactics has been one of my favorite games for almost a decade, so it was with great trepidation that I returned to the game. War of the Lions was a gem that I loved during my first playthrough, and since then I have actively decided to avoid replaying it.
Nostalgia can be a really ugly thing, twisting your memories to be either blind to something's faults and setting you up for disappointment. During the middle chunk of playing Final Fantasy Tactics, I suffered from the latter, finding the battle system too easy and tedious instead of engaging. Thankfully, this feeling quickly passed and the true brilliance of the game shone through after I reached the real meat of the game. As the encounters became more complex and the story more interesting, it was hard not to get wrapped up in the political intrigue and backstabbing.
At the end of the day, Final Fantasy Tactics was just as good as I remembered, and with my nostalgia justified, I can go back to bragging about how wonderful War of the Lions is.
I think the reason I like Final Fantasy Tactics so much is that you're rewarded for the time you put into the game, grinding for job points to craft the sweetest team. There are many ways to approach each mission, and each of those approaches can be personally tailored by every player. Do you want to run in guns blazing with a team of monks? Maybe you're the type to sit back and watch the enemy squirm when they are all stopped/put to sleep/frogged by your team of 5 dancers. Regardless of what you choose, it's your choice, and that's what makes each playthrough unique. I chose to send out my building-hopping ninjas to decimate the enemy while having my flying, dancing chemists assist from behind.
This was perhaps one of my favorite runs of this game, even though later missions proved to be a bit of a challenge. Even though FFT isn't on my top 10 games of all time, I find it to be one of the only games where I can play mindlessly and have fun doing so. I just hope that if they do create a direct sequel to this game, they will expand on each of the plot characters. Personally, I'd like to know more about Boco and where all these eggs are coming from!
Funny story. I didn't like Final Fantasy Tactics the first time I played it. I couldn't wrap my head around battles and was constantly running out of the resources I needed to keep my units alive. Of course, I was also twelve years old and had only played two RPGs before trying Tactics, so that may have had something to do with my initial dislike of the game. For reasons I can't recall, I came back to the game a year or two later and fell absolutely in love with the world, characters, music, and story of Ivalice. It is now one of my favorite Final Fantasies and the standard against which I measure all other SRPGs.
The political narrative and fanciful dialogue are compelling, the job system is robust and highly customizable, and the score is a perfect example of how themes can set the stage and connect the world, characters, and story. The War of the Lions version improves on the original in almost every way, though your mileage may vary with the slowdown that was inadvertently introduced. I do wish some of the new optional battles had been presented differently, as there are some troubling trends in the way female characters are treated, but overall the additional content and improved translation are worth checking out, regardless of whether you're a veteran of the original or trying it for the very first time.
I finally can say that I've played Final Fantasy Tactics! So, that's another item off of the RPGFan staff checklist. But seriously, this game is great, although I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything less. Certain aspects of it haven't aged well, as is often the case — in particular, unskippable random encounters and a certain level of mandatory grinding occasionally reared their heads as minor annoyances. However, the depth of the story and characters on display here is far and above your typical JRPG outing — heck, I'd say it goes beyond what we normally see in video games, period. And building an unstoppable, double-punching Monk and taking down a giant skeletal angel is going to be a fond gaming memory of mine for years to come.
Now, about that sequel, Matsuno-san?